Florida’s Program For Unemployed Borrowers Grows In Scale

Additional funding announced last week by the U.S. Treasury Department will enable Florida's state housing finance agency to offer mortgage payment assistance to a greater number of unemployed borrowers for a longer period of time, according to the agency.

The Florida Housing Finance Corp. (FHFC), named among five state agencies in the first round of the Obama administration's HFA Hardest Hit Fund, was allocated $238.86 million as part of the Treasury's announcement last week, bringing its total funding through the program to more than $656 million. Whereas the original plan was expected to reach 12,000 borrowers, the additional funding will allow the FHFC to help as many as 20,000 borrowers, according to the agency's communications director, Cecka Rose Green.

The funds will be used to help borrowers make mortgage payments while they seek re-employment or gain job training, Green said in a conference call Thursday.

The additional money will also allow the agency to assist qualified borrowers for a longer period of time. The agency had initially designed a program that offered assistance for up to nine months and had hoped lenders would agree to forgive payments for up to an additional nine months.

In the intervening months between the original Hardest-Hit Fund announcement and the increased allocation, the Treasury Department unveiled its unemployment-assistance initiative under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). David Wescott, the FHFC's director of homeownership programs, said the HAMP subprogram is one of the reasons the agency was unable to get a nine-month match from lenders.

Green said the new program will be able to provide assistance to borrowers for up to 18 months.

The FHFC expects to submit its proposal for the revised program to the Treasury by Sept. 1, and the Treasury will have until the end of next month to review and approve or deny the program. Assuming the program is approved, FHFC officials believe a pilot version of the program could hit Lee County – home to the foreclosure-battered Fort Myers – this fall. The Treasury requires agencies involved with the HFA Hardest-Hit Fund to roll out programs on a trial basis before rolling them out statewide.


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